When former Wilson Hall standout Miller Moss first got to Clemson in 2006, he had so many questions.
Moss was a star sprinter for the Barons, but he was going to be a heptathlete at Clemson. He suddenly had to learn a world of field events. And he didn't just want to get by, he wanted to thrive.
By the time he left Clemson in 2011, thriving would be a bit of an understatement.
Moss graduated from Clemson as the Tigers' first and only national champion in the heptathlon and earned a slew of other honors. Last weekend, he was recognized for that excellence by being inducted into the Clemson Athletic Hall of Fame.
"It was a huge honor," Moss said. "I'd only been back to Clemson a couple of times in the last 12 years since I left campus. IPTAY and the Clemson athletic department did such a great job of acknowledging all of us, and it just felt really special. It was a really, really cool weekend."
Despite his accomplishments in Clemson orange, Moss never expected to get the call into his alma mater's athletic hall. In fact, it took him a while to pick up the phone.
"The guy that called me, I was screening his phone calls because I thought it was spam," Miller said with a chuckle. "I finally caught up with my voicemail, and I was like, 'Shoot, I need to call him back.'
"It was totally out of the blue. I was pretty surprised."
Unsurprisingly, Moss' lasting memory of his time at Clemson was also his most historic.
"I have a lot of great memories from my time there. I think just the experience of being a student-athlete at Clemson was just incredible," Moss said. "The highlight was certainly winning an NCAA title in 2011. It was not a goal I had when I got to Clemson. When I got to Clemson, my main goal was just making the NCAA championships by my senior year.
"To have gotten to that point and become an All-American and an NCAA champion far exceeded what I thought I was able to accomplish when I got there."
Moss won the 2011 national championship in the indoor heptathlon despite entering the final day of events trailing by 55 points. He went on to finish with 5,986 points, which was the fifth-highest total in NCAA history at the time. He was named the 2011 ACC Indoor Track and Field athlete of the year and the Southeast Region Field Athlete of the Year. He followed that highlight by being a USTFCCCA All-American in the decathlon during the outdoor season and finished third in the event at the outdoor championships.
More than a decade later, Moss still remembers all the details of that final day of the heptathlon.
"The guy in front of me was Mantas Silkauskas. Going into that day, I knew Mantas was a really good hurdler, but I also knew the pole vault was a pretty weak event for him. I knew I was going to be able to make up a lot of points on him in the pole vault," Moss said of the Kansas State athlete that went on to finish seventh. "At that point, I was on a really good pace. It was four of seven events completed on Day 1, and going into Day 2, I knew that I had to stay the course and do what I'm capable of doing.
"You can only control what you can do, especially in track and field because you're not really influenced by your competitors. In basketball or football, you have to react to what your opponent does. In track and field, you literally, you know the phrase 'Stay in your lane' and just execute what you know you're able to do."
The pole vault was the penultimate event. Moss finished second to propel himself into first place. He trailed Silkauskas by 91 points and took a commanding 130-point lead over the rest of the field. A solid finish in the 1,000-meter run was enough to seal the win.
"After the pole vault, I essentially won the event," Moss said. "I knew I had it kinda in the bag as long as I made sure that second and third didn't make up too much on me in the 1,000."
Being a national champion in the heptathlon is an incredible accomplishment in and of itself. The feat is even more spectacular when Moss looks back at where he started in the event when he first got to Clemson.
"With the heptathlon and the decathlon, people say that it chooses you, you don't really choose it, and that's definitely true," Moss said. "I was recruited by Jarrett Foster, who was the multi-events and field events coach at Clemson at the time. Jarrett just really saw potential in me. I had kinda the raw skills; he saw that I could run 100-meter dash, so he knew I was fast, and speed is everything in every sport. He knew that I had raw speed, he knew that I had speed endurance, I could run a 400, and he knew I could jump, so he was like, 'We can teach you.'"
The Clemson track program was turned upside down before Moss even stepped on campus when Foster died after a jet-skiing accident during the summer. Now the person that brought Moss to Clemson was gone, and the Baron had to figure out how to adjust as he learned more than three-quarters of the 10 events required to compete in the decathlon.
"Josh Langley stepped in, and he was really my first coach and kinda taught me all of those events in my redshirt year," Moss said. "I had maybe dabbled with each of these events once just like fooling around, but I had never thrown the shot put, I had never high jumped, I'd never hurdled, I'd never thrown the javelin or the discus, and I'd never pole vaulted. That's like six or seven events because I'd never run the 1,500 either.
"There's certainly a lot to be said about my development as an athlete, and a lot of credit goes to my coaches Josh Langley and Mario Anderson."
Moss also credits the coaches he had here in Sumter as he honed his craft before making the jump to Clemson. Wilson Hall coaches Stacy Payne Martin and Dr. Linda Crabbe joined Moss at his hall of fame induction. Legendary Sumter track coach and Sumter Item historian Sammy Way was not able to attend the ceremony but made a lasting impact on Moss, as did former Wilson Hall coach Stacy Ard.
"I had three really great coaches at Wilson Hall," Moss said. "Sammy was like my sensei. He's got so much experience; he's been coaching track for a long time. He really just taught me how to run. People think that running is something that people just know how to do, but there's actually a lot of technique and art to how you run, especially a 400, which was my specialty in high school. Sammy really taught me how to clean up my stride to make it very efficient, and he taught me how to run a 400-meter dash, which I would say was my best event throughout my career. That was kinda where it all started.
"I learned the jumps through Dr. Linda Crabbe, and Stacy was just there to guide me overall and push me to try different things. I had some really great coaches at Wilson Hall to lay the foundation for going to Clemson and taking that next step."
Since graduating from Clemson, Moss tried his hand at the Olympic trials twice. When he fell just short of competing for gold, he hung up his cleats as his body started to break down. Still, he found a way to stay involved in athletics. He started as a volunteer assistant coach at the University of Texas as he trained for the Olympic trials. From there, Moss worked in personal fitness as a trainer and manager before running events for FloSports, a company that focuses on streaming and recording stats for more niche sports, primarily track and wrestling. After settling down in Texas for most of the last 12 years, Moss moved back to South Carolina just before his induction at Clemson.
"I look back at my career. It really peaked my senior year at Clemson. I competed at two different Olympic trials, which was awesome, but my pinnacle was that last year at Clemson," Moss said. "I had a lot of injuries post-college that I was dealing with from knee injuries, I had Tommy John, so a full reconstruction of my elbow from the javelin. I struggled post-collegiately and never got back to where I was my senior year at Clemson.
"Looking back at everything, even the good and the bad, every experience I'm so grateful for because it shaped me as a person and as a man. I really learned a lot about life. It's the beauty of sport. It really teaches you all of these beautiful life lessons. I'm just so grateful I was able to do it as long as I did because a lot of people don't get that experience to do it in college, and post-college is super rare. I'm so grateful for those experiences."
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